Emboldened State Advocates are Ready for 2018!

Before the holidays, members of the State & Local Policy team joined fellow state advocates from the State Priorities Partnership to recharge our batteries, learn from one another and get motivated for another state legislative season at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ State Policy Conference, IMPACT 2017. The tone of this conference was markedly different than the previous year’s, which fell just days after the 2016 elections, a moment that at the time left many attendees in a state of shock, worried and uncertain about the future of the budget and tax issues in their states.  

Yet what a difference a year makes! In 2017 — after initial victories defending against the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, success after success enacting new or expanding existing state EITCs, and waves of electoral wins in states like Virginia, New Jersey and Alabama (!) — advocates confidently know that, when we strike out together, we can not only defend against dark threats but push ahead at the state level for new progressive policies. 

At a time when the impacts of the Trump-Ryan tax bill that benefits the wealthy at the expense of lower-income households are imminent, listening to speakers look back on their victories offered hope for policy experts and advocates alike. Speakers highlighted their victories while acknowledging the harsh truth of the major social, economic and political challenges lying ahead. Given disturbing developments that occurred after the conference – namely, the repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate and tax increases for millions of middle-income families – the various workshops and conversations from the conference feel more important to reflect on than ever. The team took away several great lessons from the conference, including: 

  • Recognizing the importance of understanding who feels that they’re being excluded from big picture economic conversations or are being overlooked politically. We must always remember to reach out to those who would stand to benefit most from a policy so that their voices will be heard regarding the policy solution from its outset. 

  • Continuing to develop new clear and concise tools that can truly demonstrate for many different audiences—policymakers, practitioners, advocates, members of the community—the impact of policy actions we’ve taken and policy changes we hope to create. Clear tools and narratives help build public will for policy solutions that serve the communities most in need.  

  • Finding innovative strategies to push back against efforts to accelerate wealth inequality and undermine important safety net structures—or at the very least, finding strategies to minimize the damage. 

  • Prioritizing the internal processes that drive success, such as board participation, thorough strategic planning, intra-organization racial equity goals, program evaluation for measuring policy impact and development strategy. 

And now we’ve had a chance to see these lessons start to come together and inspire new campaigns. Just last week, I had the pleasure of joining the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute at their Insights 2018 Policy Conference in Atlanta, where attendees were introduced to People Powered Prosperity—an exciting new, “people-first economic vision for Georgia.” The four goals of this vision focused on education, families, workers and health form a bold and achievable policy agenda to ensure all families have a way out of poverty and a chance to share in Georgia’s prosperity. Seeing the unanimous excitement for this vision further emboldens us to take on the challenges that continue to come our way with bolder solutions and new tools under our belts. 

For our partners and friends in Georgia, check out People-Powered Prosperity and sign-on to support this vision. We at Prosperity Now look forward to seeing its policies enacted and to helping spread the message in Georgia and beyond that a fairer, more equitable economy begins with the people first. 

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